What was that about things never being as you expect them to be (The First Spiritual Axiom of Travel and Life)? As we "deplane" at KEF just before 0630, we are greeted by gusts of snowy wind almost throwing us off the outdoor stairway. (True, I can't speak for the rest of the arriving guests.) The pilot had noted the presence of "snow showers." Nope, this had the feel of a good, ol' fashioned Syracuse snow squall. Fine. I held onto the railing as I descended. It was dark outside. Dark like the night. We walked to a shuttle bus, which transported us no more than a few hundred yards to an arrival building. Exiting the shuttle bus, several inches of swirling and drifted snow which belied all the pamphlet hype of "temperate" conditions. I joked with a kid from Wisconsin about it. We all took it in stride.
The arrivals building (it may be the only building at the airport) is Icelandic slick and pristine: wooden floors, lean lines, bathrooms of white featuring waterless urinals and private closets for other discharges; quiet. I turned in US$150 and got back 18,834 ISK, or Icelandic Krona. don't fight me on this. Maybe I got back 18,500. Who knows? The window said no commission is charged, so I'd say this was a wise move instead of doing the transaction at EWR. I Joe Island (so says the receipt, though I think the sign says Joe + Juice), I bought an Earl Grey tea and a so-called blueberry muffin that looked Martin pink, stawberry-ish, for 798 ISK. Seemed like a lot, but amounted to a total of $6 when I figured it out afterward. Two young guys ran it, zippy, awake, affable, playing pop music (was that Rihanna?). I sat at a round table. They tried to have the feel of a coffee shop (though no bagels or anything; avocado smoothies and health stuff).
At a convenience 7 Eleven-type shop at KEF, I bought a Siminn Prepaid Mobile Service sim card for my phone because AT&T was not working. At all. "Emergency Calls Only." It cost around $25. seemed to make sense. I went over at a table and fumbled with my phone. I see the clerk who sold me the chip walking into the joint with something that looks an awful lot like my Ogio laptop bag, because it is my laptop bag, which I had leaned against the counter. A nearly disastrous close call. Chalk it up to not having slept a wink on the five-hour flight. I scratched off the number on the sim card package and inserted it in the space on my phone screen. (I do not have a smartphone. I did this seven or eight times. No dice, not even with the help of the folks who sold it to me. They told me to talk to the folks at the Kringlan mall and told me roughly where it was. The Siminn folks were not open yet and not answering calls.
It was time to get out of the airport. I bought a round-trip ticket for the Flybus into Reykjavik. 5000 ISK. I scrounged around in my pocket and could only find one coupon for the bus. Is it tiredness or nervousness that is spawning these slip-ups? I cut ahead of those waiting in line and asked the gal who sold me the ticket. She said just give your receipt to the driver and use the ticket/coupon on Friday (as if I was supposed to know that). I exit the terminal to make for the bus. Blustery snow. In the dark. At 0830. I had to laugh.
I sat on the bus next to Eddie from south of Boston (but not "Southie" per se, he said), recently retired from the military as a helicopter pilot. A perfect companion for the trip in. We groused good-naturedly about the weather and the dark. "The sun comes up at 11 and goes down at 4," he said. He too was traveling alone. He thought he had read Baseball's Starry Night. He had great Ted Williams stories. Stayed at a condo next door to The Kid, who answered his door in boxers. They knocked down drinks together, in the morning. Jim Craig, the goalie for the U.S. hockey team that beat the Russians at Lake placid, was his neighbor; his brother was Eddie's accountant. Eddie traded away his tickets for that game, figuring our team was going nowhere. As for this morning, Eddie was going to go to a spa for a few hours because he was too early for his room at the Hilton.
Our bus sailed into Reykjavik in the dark. The snow let up. At 0930 it was still dark as we got got in a traffic jam. I saw one plow. do people go to work late? Or was it the snowstorm, which began the day before. No, it was not on par with a Syracuse lake-effect blast, predicted back home for this very day. But I pictured dramatic escarpments, geysers, ocean views, and Bjork on the way in. (More later on music on the flight.)
At one point, Eddie, sitting on my left, slumped over, bent in half, immobile. Was he dead? We are of similar age. Should I try to rouse him? Listen for snoring? After ten minutes he popped back up. A valuable practice he had matered in the military: sleeping on a dime.
On the trip in, a young fellow walked up to the driver. Five times we all could hear the driver say, in English, "I can't hear you. You're mumbling. What? I don't understand a word you are saying." Then: "I can't get your luggage while I am driving," with a dose of sarcasm. "You can't wait? Now?" Finally, the riddle was made clear when the driver stopped the bus, let the guy out, who ran behind some pines and took a leak. The bus crept along. Then the bus stopped, holding up traffic briefly, and let the fellow pop back onto the bus, relieved.
Our bus stopped at the BSI bus terminal and let most of us off to transfer to smaller buses. Eddie and I shook hands, mutually declaring we had a good chance of meeting here again.
My small bus dropped me off at the Black Pearl Hotel, in the old Harbor. Ice Apartments, where I'd stay, were said to be adjacent. It was past 1000. Still dark.
[more to come]